A severe crackdown by Syrian authorities against money exchange offices to curn illegal money exchange in Damascus is underway, with a series of office closures and arrests, SANA news agency has reported.
A source has told Iqtissad online newspaper that the arrests included senior employees from the Central Bank of Damascus.
Tareq al-Zoubi, one of the arrested exchnage employees was quoted by SANA admitting to selling U.S. dollars provided by the central bank on the black market.
Zoubi's confession, broadcast on Syrian television Thursday stated that Al-Shaar company would use intermediaries to exchange Syrian pounds for dollars from the Central Bank of Syria, and would subsequently exchange the funds on the black market, profiting from the difference in price.
Muna Saqr, another arrested staff member, was also quoted confessing that the office had recently sold $220,000 on the black market. She also admitted that the office sold customers up to $10,000 above the $1,000 limit per individual, set by the Central Bank.
The Syrian regime has recently launched a campaign aimed stopping dollars flooding the economy. Syrian traders who sell goods in foreign currency can face up to 10 years in jail, the government announced earlier this month.
Before the uprising in Syria erupted in March 2011, the exchange rate of the Syrian Pound was as low as 50 SP to the U.S. Dollar, but the rate has since increased fourfold on the black market.
Earlier this week, Syria moved to allow private banks to sell dollars to individuals in what it said was a bid to curb black market trade.
Syrians will be able to buy dollars at 175 SP, higher than the official rate but still cheaper than the black market – where the rate often reaches 200 SP to the Dollar.
The Central Bank sold dollars to ten private banks at the rate of 173.27 SP pounds but did not disclose the dollar amount, although it said it would cover the needs of the market until Monday.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer